Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Rosepink - Sabatia angularis

Rosepink (Sabatia angularis) is an annual (sometimes a biennial within its geographic range) that is found in only 7 counties within the central-western Panhandle region of Florida. It is common, however, in states north and west of us - occurring from east Texas north to Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Throughout its range, it occurs most commonly in deciduous moist woodland understories where it gets filtered sun throughout the growing season.  

As a biennial/annual it flowers once and reseeds. It is reported to do so easily in a landscape, but I have no experience with that.  Emergence from the seedbank occurs in spring and the plants reach their adult height of 2-3 feet by summer.  A dense basal rosette shiny oval leaves is quickly formed and the stalkless leaves are opposite along the stems.  Each is about 1 inch long.  Plants produce multiple stems and they are conspicuously 4-angled; a trait that gives it its name.

Flowering occurs atop these stems in early summer and may last into September.  Each flower is about 1 inch across and they occur in flat-toped cymes. They are a rich pink in color, fragrant, and with a yellow center.  Like other members of this genus, urn-shaped seed capsules are produced after pollination and each is filled with a great many seeds.

I have never seen this species offered for sale by any of the native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but seeds are often offered by nurseries outside of Florida. It is reputed to self sow in a garden setting, but as an annual it would require a setting without a great amount of mulch to do so.  It requires moist soil and partial sun. If given more sun, it would need higher soil moisture. Its rich color and fragrance make it an excellent garden subject in the right setting - in fact, it was selected as the North Carolina Wildflower of the Year in 2020 through a program managed by the NC Botanical Garden.

The photos above were taken by my friend, Lily Byrd, and are used by permission.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Prairie iris - Iris savannarum


Prairie iris (Iris savannarum) is the most common native iris species in Florida - found nearly statewide except in the western Panhandle counties.  Despite its common nature to Florida, it is quite rare elsewhere and is documented only in a few counties in Georgia and Alabama.  All of our native irises are wetland species and prairie iris is found at the edges of freshwater lakes and streams, often partially submerged in water 6-8 inches deep.  

Prairie iris tends to maintain its succulent sword-like leaves in the southern part of its range, but becomes dormant elsewhere in winter. These leaves eventually reach a mature height of about 2-3 feet by late spring. Irises spread easily by underground almost-woody rhizomes and this species, in particular, forms large colonies over time in suitable habitat.  It, therefore, makes an excellent ground cover for pond and lake edges to reduce erosion and nutrient loading.

The deep-blue flowers are produced on single stalks above the foliage in spring - mostly March-April. The large showy blooms are composed of 3 sepals with a yellowish blaze at their base and three smaller petals above them. The flowers are pollinated mostly by bees. A six-sided seed capsule results after pollination and gives this plant is Latin species name.

Prairie iris is commonly propagated by native-plant nurseries in Florida and are easy to locate. Because this species spreads so easily, only a few will eventually form a large showy mass over a few years. It will do well in sun or partial shade, but it needs to be grown in wet areas that become shallowly inundated during the wet season.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Savannah Iris - Iris tridentata

 Savannah iris (Iris tridentata) is a little-known member of this widely cultivated genus.  It is native to boggy freshwater wetlands in eight counties in the central Florida panhandle as well as Duval County in northeastern Florida. It also has been documented in the coastal counties of Georgia, the two Carolinas as well as one county in extreme southwestern Mississippi.  Records occur from Tennessee. It is common in the few regions it occurs in naturally as it suckers aggressively by its underground rhizomes. It prefers the semi-shade of boggy areas at the edge of more forested habitats.

Savannah iris is a perennial species that dies completely back to the ground each winter. It reemerges in the spring and reaches a mature height of about 2 feet. Unlike some close relatives, it continues to grow a bit during the heat of summer. The foliage and general aspect are similar to other more common native members of this genus. 

Flowering occurs in late spring to summer on stalks that rise nearly 1 foot above the basal leaves. Like our other native irises, its petal-like sepals are lavender blue with a bright yellow marking near their base.  The three petals are significantly reduced in size making them almost hidden. This gives it its Latin name meaning "three teeth".

Savannah iris would make a wonderful addition to a boggy landscape near the edge of a lake or pond. It is reported that it can withstand some drought if not placed in a sufficiently wet area, but it won't perform properly in that environment.  In a small bog garden, it may spread too aggressively so it is probably best used by itself or confined to a pot. I have never seen it offered for sale in Florida by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries,  but it is sometimes available through native nurseries in other states within its range. 

These photos, including the amazing shot of a male ruby-throated hummingbird resting on a flower, were taken by my friend, Lily Byrd, and are used by permission.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Rosemary Frostweed - Crocanthemum rosmarinifolium


Rosemary frostweed (Crocanthemum rosemarinifolium) is one of six native species found in Florida.  It occurs primarily in the central Panhandle, but there are documented occurrences in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties in the far west and in Putnam County in the northeastern peninsula.  Outside of Florida, it is documented in the Southeast Coastal Plain from east Texas to North Carolina. Throughout this region it occurs primarily in well-drained sunny locations - roadsides, sandhills and open dry woodlands.

This is a perennial herbaceous wildflower that dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges in early spring.  It produces many decidedly upright stems that reach a mature height of about 1 foot. As this plant produces numerous below-ground stems, it tends to form distinct colonies.  Short stellate hairs along the stem and on the foliage give it a silvery aspect. The lance-shaped linear leaves are alternate on the stem and about 1/4 inch wide.  In a sense, they resemble the foliage on culinary rosemary, but these leaves have no culinary usage.

Flowering occurs in late spring and summer. The lemon-yellow blooms are produced near the tips of the stems, are composed of five petals, and combine to make a flower approximately 1/3 inch across. These showy blooms are visited by a wide variety of pollinators.

This genus is very rarely offered commercially and I have never seen this species for sale.  Frostweeds make excellent ground covers for open sunny locations as they all sucker extensively, but are not overwhelming to adjacent plants in a mixed planting.  Perhaps, someday...

The photos above were taken by my friend and excellent photographer, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

Carolina Indigo - Indigofera caroliniana

Carolina indigo (Indigofera caroliniana) is found statewide and in much of the Southeast Coastal Plain from Louisiana to North Carolina.  It is a member of the genus that contains true indigo - used for generations by peoples as a dye plant.  Carolina indigo was used sparingly by early European colonists in this way Most members of this genus are not native to Florida, but Carolina indigo is native to a wide variety of xeric upland sites - especially those that have been subjected to some soil disturbance.  

This is an herbaceous perennial that dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges in the early spring.  Its basal stems become slightly woody. Eventually it reaches its mature height of 3-6 feet in early summer. The plants are rounded in aspect and may be 2-3 feet wide. Like many legumes, it has compound leaves. Each is composed of numerous rounded elliptical leaflets.  

Flowering occurs in early summer on short flower stalks that occur along the many stems. Each stalk produces up to a dozen salmon-colored blossoms with a typical legume structure - a fused lower lip and an upright keel above.  Each flower is only about 1/3 inch long and is pollinated mostly by bees.  Carolina indigo serves as a host for the Ceraunus blue and the Zarucco duskywing butterfly. As such, it is a useful addition to a butterfly/pollinator garden.  It also serves as a soil nitrogen fixer.

Though this widely distributed wildflower has many attributes to warrant its addition to the home landscape, I am not aware of it ever being propagated by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  I have not found it offered outside of Florida either.  Carolina indigo can be propagated by seed, but germination is improved greatly by scarifying the hard seed coat - either by physically nicking it or by pouring hot water over them.  It also sometimes suckers and these can be moved.